Critics of a speaker widely viewed as one of the nation’s most prominent deniers of the Holocaust say they will counter his talk in Eugene on Friday with a competing event and a later symposium.Why exactly does Weber have the right to speak on campus? He has the right to speak on a soapbox in a park; he has the right to create a website or radio show to air his hate. But why, exactly, does a college have the obligation to host racists?
Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review, will speak on “The Israel Lobby.” His visit comes at the invitation of the Pacifica Forum, a local discussion group founded by retired University of Oregon professor Orval Etter.
Weber, a historian who grew up in Portland, describes himself as a Holocaust revisionist. But detractors point to Weber’s own writings in labeling him a white supremacist, racist and anti-Semite.
“People may think I’m wrong or I’m right, but they should have a chance to hear what I have to say,” Weber said in a telephone interview from his institute’s office in Newport Beach, Calif.
Local critics affiliated with Community Alliance of Lane County have scheduled a free speech vigil to be held just outside the UO hall where Weber will speak. “We are operating under the theory that the best response to hate speech is more speech,” volunteer Michael Williams said. “We want an opportunity for the community to show its opposition to the kinds of things that Mark Weber stands for.”
Williams said opponents don’t plan to shout slogans or prevent people from hearing Weber’s talk. “We will have a presence that is unavoidable but not obstructionist.”
David Frank, a professor in the Honors College at the UO, said he and two faculty members are planning a Holocaust symposium in response to Weber’s talk.
Weber “has the right to come to campus and make preposterous statements,” Frank said. “But we have a responsibility as scholars to demonstrate the expertise and research that shows his claims are not only false but dangerous.”
Weber’s speech is not the first to draw charges of anti-Semitism against the Pacifica Forum, which last year sponsored multiple talks by Valdas Anelauskas, a resident of Eugene and native of Lithuania who describes himself as a journalist, researcher and “white separatist and racialist.” Anelauskas dedicated one of his lectures to a Holocaust denier.
Weber’s institute “has been battling Israel and the Jews for a long time,” Etter said. “They sort of lead the parade against those who say any extensive criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.”
Etter said he welcomes the controversy sparked by Weber’s appearance because it will “improve understanding in this community about what’s been going on for a long time in regard to Israel and the Israeli lobby .... This will be another pinnacle of free speech.”
Because of this:
The forum has access to UO space because he and forum colleague George Beres are former UO employees, Etter said.We'll see if the KKK can find a former UO employee to sponsor them as well and give them some more legitimacy.